View Full Version : Lens for easier viewing in church interiors

Jean Nightingale
21-Oct-2006, 09:04
I wonder if anyone can help
I am shooting in darkish church interiors using a 90mm Caltar (Rodenstock) lens. F6.8. I am finding it very difficult to frame well since the edges of the scene are particularly difficult to see. Would it be easier with a 150mm lens which I have had an offer on borrowing. How do other manage when shooting in poor light. My camera is a Sinar F2

21-Oct-2006, 09:07
Can you bring in more light to focus with? Work lights ?

Ron Marshall
21-Oct-2006, 09:14
You can place a tiny light, or lights, at points of critical focus. Also a Rodenstock 90mm f4.5 or other lens with a larger aperture would help.

Brian Ellis
21-Oct-2006, 09:35
Your choices are a lens with a wider maximum aperture (e.g. f5.6), brighter viewing screen (BosScreen will cure the dark edges though it won't make everything really brighter, Maxwell will make everything brighter), longer lens (150 would be better than 90, 210 would be better than 150), and possibly a better dark cloth (one that keeps out more extraneous light if there is any). I can't think of any other on-camera fixes. But it's a fact of LF photography life that composing and focusing in dim light can be difficult no matter what you do.

Kirk Gittings
21-Oct-2006, 10:09
All good ideas, let me mention one more POLAROID!

Ernest Purdum
21-Oct-2006, 14:24
I have a cordless spotlight which I think is useful in such situations. I got mine from Harbor Freight but have often seen them elsewhere. It will mount on a light tripod if you don't have a helper to wave it around.

The last time I mentioned this device, several people told me that lasers are handier.

Leonard Evens
21-Oct-2006, 14:30
I have the Rodenstock version of the same lens. I had trouble using it in dim light until I got a Maxwell screen, and that resolved my problems.

Alan Davenport
21-Oct-2006, 16:22
What you are experienceing is part of the mystique of large format. Generations of photographers have worked in poor light with slow lenses and dim screens.

Get a better darkcloth. Use it. Use a loupe.

Ed Richards
21-Oct-2006, 17:17
If you are not using movements, get a Linhof multifocal finder or a Fotoman finder for a 90mm. It will solve the framing problem, but not the focusing problem.

Walter Calahan
22-Oct-2006, 06:32
Take longer to let your eyes adjust under a very dark darkcloth to the scene on the ground glass, then move your head to the left and right to see into the darker corner.

Polaroid is an excellent solution, too, as well as a faster lens, added light and light colored focusing aids placed in the scene in your corner locations. These are mentioned by others.

Frank Petronio
22-Oct-2006, 06:53
Worse case scenario -- say it is almost pitch black in there... use a tape measure to determine where you need to place your focus point (1/3 of the way into the scene, etc.). Mark your tripod leg locations with tape. Go outside and focus on the tape measure distance. Replace the camera.

Given the way most churches are, you probably won't swing or tilt but you will use a helluvalot of rise. Remember the 90/6.8 will only give you 1/2 - 3/4 inch.

If you are super-anal, get some Polaroid Type 55 and shoot at the slow ISO 50. Shoot and peel, and use a loupe on the negative. Ignore the slime and smell, use the sky or a window as your lightbox. You can check critical focus on the actual Pola 55 negative. Probably use a cheap Agfa 8x loupe, not your fancy 4x camera loupe.

Of course if you are doing 60-minute exposures on ISO 400 film you are screwed. Just stop it down and avoid earthquakes and train tracks.

This is an hour long exposure from a church balcony. The specs are the photographer's tiny flash.

Louie Powell
22-Oct-2006, 10:30
As others have pointed out, the problem you describe is just part of the fun of large format. And the choices to address it are very limited - more light, or a lens with a larger aperture. And a dark cloth in either case.

That said, the problem really isn't with focusing as much as it is with compositition. A 90mm lens at f32 will render everything from 7ft to infinity in focus. So the question really is how can you control what is intruding into the edges of the frame where you really can't see all that well.

A suggestion is to carry along a small flashlight - I have a maglight in my camera bag, and also a LED flashlight on my belt. Have someone (spouse, child, shooting friend, etc) walk what you believe to be the edge of the frame while pointing a flashlight at the camera. You will be able to see the specular light source on the ground glass (especially if you are using a darkcloth), and if you find that what you think is the edge of the frame is actually very much inside the edge of the frame, then you need to recompose.

David Karp
22-Oct-2006, 11:04
Its expensive, but I have a 90mm f/4.5 Rodenstock Grandagon-N lens. It works great in interiors. A 90 is still harder to focus than a 125mm or 150mm, but the bigger Rodenstock 90 is much easier to focus in darker interiors than is my 90mm f/8 Fujinon.

22-Oct-2006, 12:09
Louie, maybe I'm not as strick about focus (actually cof) as you are but with my 90 I have markings on the bedrail at 8ft and if focused there at f32 everything will be in focus from about 4.5ft to infinity. I made a dof scale from the net somewhere for both of my lenses. It's a wheel design and works great. Printed it out on the computer and lamninated the paper for waterproofing, etc. The COF, etc. is all variable. If one plane of focus is desired I'd use a flashlight at the distance wanted and focus on that.

Gerry Harrison
22-Oct-2006, 21:07
Well I have been shooting a large Church actually Cathedral like mostly constructed of stone and way high ceiling for over a month on weekends. I find this subject very interesting....lends itself very well to B&W..so much to shoot if you can see it. The church has stained windows on both sides and ends...nothing really happens light wise till noon. The sun shines through the stained glasss at this time of day and the whole afternoon and the church comes alive..all the shadows and dark areas tranform..the wood pues the organ pipes..beams of light fall between pillars and halls.so much to shoot. Anyway back to your actual question...go back at different times of the day and see where the light in your area brings your Church to life..I presume your have arched windows in the church you are shooting..once the light is right and fills the church you will know. Expose for the shadows and print for the highlights. Church interiors are wonderful topics..they are cool on a very hot day, quiet and a most wonderful place to shoot B&W. I use 400 speed film at this point it seems to capture shadows better..focus can be tough at times but use slow shutter speeds and shut the lens way down for good depth of field.


Jean Nightingale
27-Oct-2006, 12:28
Hello Leonard Evens
I am quite interested in the Maxwell Screen. Can you tell me how you went about getting one. I am in the UK and did email the company but never heard anything back

27-Oct-2006, 15:14
Get a BTZS darkcloth, or a darkcloth that blocks out all light. Close your eyes under the darkcloth for about 20 seconds. Your eyes will adjust. I do this to check stop down/focus. This should help.

Beyond that you have alternatives for focusing, but not composing, other than a wider aperture lens, or brighter ground glass, etc.

Andrew O'Neill
27-Oct-2006, 17:46
I shot a lot of very dark interiors of old coal mining buildings in Omuta, Japan...and I mean dark...with a Nikkor 120 SW f/8. Having a good dark cloth helps. Pen lights really help a lot. Lay them in the scene at the edge of your framing, pointing towards the camera.

Andrew O'Neill
27-Oct-2006, 17:51
Hey Gerry, which church are you shooting in? Is it Christ Church Cathedral? If so, that's my favourite one in Victoria. Never photographed it, only have drawn it several times when I was a visual arts student at UVic years ago.

Gerry Harrison
27-Oct-2006, 21:45
Andrew, Yes it is Christ Church Cathedral...its such a great place. You feel really humble in this structure..........I feel like I am imposing sometimes. I still have many rolls yet to shoot there. Maybe we will meet one day by chance.